By Ivan G. Goldman
The Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez series, coming out with its fourth installment Dec. 8, is valiantly trying to overtake the Police Academy series, whose eighth movie will be released next year.
Stirring up excitement for both of these never-ending strings of shows requires supernatural persistence, and the marketing mavens who have to do it have my sympathy.
One of them is Fred Sternburg, a publicist on contract to Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, who today sent fight writers the first batch of stories devoted to the December event. It makes it easier for the writers to steal stuff from each other. Stories follow the same pattern in all big fights. First they announce the event. Word was sent out previously, but Arum attracts additional stories by arranging really good lunches for writers in L.A., New York, and sometimes Las Vegas. Marquez, who speaks very little English, was curiously absent, but Pacquiao and Roach were around to promise that this time they will go for a kayo. Not terribly surprising. Although Marquez is 39 and Pacquiao 33 and both of them have suffered too many wars, everyone promoting the event will pretend they’re better than ever. Not all fight writers will be dumb enough to believe it.
Over the next few months there will be appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and elsewhere, and lots of stories analyzing the two fighters and making predictions on what we will see in this fourth bout. There will also be news releases as the undercard shapes up. Fight media will gobble up these factoids and deliver them to fans. Toward the end we’ll see stories in which both fighters will say this was the best training camp ever. They and their trainers will promise kayos. The fighters may trade insults and possibly shoves and slaps.
Meanwhile, the fight will get the full pre-fight marketing treatment from HBO, which this time will be joined by ESPN in a dual blitz of shows and snippets designed to create a thirst among fans. The co-marketing was made possible by an alliance between the two huge corporations that own the networks. Stir up enough excitement and you get more eyeballs and everybody profits.
You don’t hear much about the suggested pay-per-view price, which will be $59.95 plus surcharge for high-def (typically $10) and tax. A $70 event. If it seems like cable bills and pay-per-view fees are rising faster than your income, you’re probably right, unless your income is skyrocketing. Market researcher NPD Group recently forecast that cable bills will catapult from $86 today to $123 in the next three years. That averages out to more than 14 percent annually. Pay-per-view fees will no doubt follow. As far as I can tell only this site focused on the exorbitant ticket prices for this event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas ($200 is bottom end. In those seats the fighters look like mice).
Sternburg’s first batch of (ten) stories shows us that fight writers were either out of ideas or not looking for any. I trust the writers all got good lunches out of them. A summary:
USA Today. Pacquiao promised a kayo.
New York Daily News. Pacquiao and rap mogul 50 Cent may form a business entity. What it will do is unclear.
New York Post. Pacquiao was quoted saying “I want a win that’s not controversial and one that’s not as close as the last three fights.”
North Jersey Record: Pacquiao “playfully refused to commit Wednesday when asked if his potential partnership with rap star 50 Cent would lead to a duet on Jimmy Kimmel Live before” the fourth fight.
MTV: Pacquiao was in New York to promote the fight and talked “about” a business relationship with 50 Cent (without saying much of anything).
SweetScience.com: Pacquaio came to New York to announce the fight and is “gunning for a kayo.”
MaxBoxing.com asked “is there consumer fatigue regarding the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry?” (Best of the lot, I thought)
HipHopDX.com: Manny and 50 Cent may promote boxing and music together. Okay, there were some details, although whether the principals actually said anything this precise is another question.
TheRingTV.com: The previous week Nacho Beristain said that Marquez “will be better than ever.” And this time Pacquiao is going for a kayo. Yawn.
BoxingScene.com: A “huge marketing campaign” is planned. Not bad.
Steel yourself. This barrage has just begun.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE